Bad flight experiences..
This originally started as a reply to a post on the Ask a Korean blog that detailed the difference between Korean carriers and American ones. After it got to be too long, I decided I’d write my own post on it.
My worst flight experience was on Air Canada/Alaska Airlines from Tokyo to Seattle. The first leg was from Narita to Vancouver and the guy next to me kept complaining that he had bought a non stop ticket to Toronto, when in actuality we’d be making a stop in Vancouver and he’d have to deplane and go through immigration and security, then get on the plane again. He was bitching for a good 5 or 6 hours. But lets get on with what was wrong with the flight itself.
1. The flight attendant (white) saw me from the back and assumed that since I had black hair that I was Japanese, so she asked me in thickly accented Japanese if I wanted something to drink. I’m generally in the habit of answering people in whatever language they speak to me if I can speak it, so naturally I replied in Japanese that I would like a coke. (Kola de onegaishimasu) AND SHE DIDN’T UNDERSTAND! Then she asked me again in English, and I said a coke, and she said it’s called ‘koku’ (which it’s not) and I should work on my accent if I wanted to be understood better. (For the record, my accent is near perfect… and not in my own estimation…)
2. The flight attendants go around passing out Canada immigration forms for everyone. They skipped me. I asked the flight attendant if I could get an immigration form and she said that Canadians don’t need them. I told her that I was not Canadian, nor was I staying in Canada, that I was headed for Seattle. She replied, you’re going to the U.S. then? I said yes, and she said… Canadians don’t need to fill out immigration forms to enter the U.S. I told her again that I was not Canadian, I was American, and at the very least I would need a U.S. customs form. Oh!!! She says and hands me the customs form and this green form entirely in Japanese. While reading through the green form, there were questions about whether or not I had been a member of the Nazi party before 1945 or if I was a member of Al Qaeda or any other terrorist network. This seemed pretty important, so I asked her if I could get it in English. She replied that they didn’t have any in English, because most people going to the U.S. on Air Canada from Japan are Japanese… I went through U.S. immigration in Vancouver… getting looked up and down by the immigration officer. It probably looked a little strange to have a white looking U.S. citizen with a Korean name having filled out a card in Japanese that that it turns out U.S. citizens don’t need to fill out in the first place.
3. I arrive in Vancouver and am about to transfer to my flight on this dinky propeller plane that will ferry me to Seattle in 30 minutes. Suddenly it is determined that there is a problem on the flight and it would be delayed. The problem is, this flight leaves every hour and the next one is nearly full. And the next one, and the next one.. So as all the people who should have gotten on the first flight are scrambling to the desk and jockeying for position on the empty seats in later flights. One staff member asks me where I was coming from, and I said Japan, going to Seattle. He told me to wait until my name was called. The staff decide that what they will do is give everyone vouchers for $5 and a phone card, and they would allow people into the empty seats in the most diplomatic way possible… alphabetical order. If I was named Adams or Bentley then I would have been okay. My legal name begins with a W unfortunately. So I had to wait for 5 hours. What did I do with my 5 hours? I decided I would use the phone card to call those in Seattle waiting for me so that they would know what was going on. The phone card was expired. I looked around for somewhere to change my yen to Canadian dollars so that I could call them. All the money exchange places were past immigration I was told, but I could use U.S. dollars if I wanted to. I did have a U.S. 20 on me, but that won’t work on a payphone. So the people in Seattle had to wait with no word from me.
I was hungry so I took my $5 voucher to the only place selling food in that part of the airport. Their cheapest item was $6. I told them that I didn’t have any Canadian money and only had this flight voucher. They said they would take the voucher but I had to make up the difference. They would take my U.S. $20 and give me $19 in Canadian Dollars. At the time the Canadian dollar was not nearly worth as much as the U.S. dollar.. so I declined. Hungry and worried I sat down and tried to just sleep through the long wait. When my name was finally called, the guy at the desk exclaimed.. wow, why did you wait so long, you could have told me that you were connecting from Japan and gotten transferred to another carrier. This was the same guy who had told me to wait until my name was called. I was of course pissed.